High heels and low lifes

Picking up on the theme of dressing again, I’m going to write about the importance of the right pair of shoes …

I attended the graduation ceremony for my MA two weeks ago on Friday and it was everything I wanted it to be.  I had been anticipating the event for some time.  There were some points during my study that the thought of getting to attend graduation was the only thing that kept me going.  Once I finished the MA my thoughts quickly turned to planning the right outfit and it just so happened that I had the perfect dress: black, velvet, just below the knee and pencil shape.  With the candidate for outfit so irrefutably having presented itself, the next question was which shoes to wear.  I purposefully chose a dress that purred elegance and composure to match the grandeur of the occasion and the shoes needed to do the same.  Obviously black shoes, the tricky part was gauging the correct heel height.  Flat shoes were unthinkable.

I have a gorgeous and pleasantly attitude laden pair of black patent heels with a chunky (though stately) 4” heel in a kind of mahogany brown with metal detailing.   These shoes speak to people, they announce that I am in the room, elongate my legs and also give me a much appreciated extra four inches or so.  When you start off at only 5’1 a couple inches extra is always welcome.  However, I instinctively felt these were not suitable for a number of reasons.

1) While I can (of course!) walk in high heels, there is something to be said for not choosing shoes that are more likely to put one off balance when doing something nerve wracking like walking across a stage to accept a certificate.

2) When wearing shoes all day and for a formal occasion, removing them and hobbling about because they have crippled you looks distinctly inelegant.

3) Shoes should not vie for attention within an outfit and these shoes would have competed with the velvet dress.  The mixture of patent leather and velvet would not have been optimal and would have left the overall impression of the outfit as incoherent.

(I do have some suede black shoes with a high heel but these were ruled out under no. 1, especially as they are still brand new and are an unknown quantity in terms of keeping balance.)

4) The day, my mood and the outfit were all about elegance, pride and dignity.  My achievement is symbolic of a great many things I hold dear in my life as it is now.  Allowing myself the possibility of celebrating my hard work in this way has been a profound experience and I chose to dress in a way that complimented my emotional landscape.

I went for a lovely, sensible and nice pair of matt black court shoes with a low (kitten height, though not as slim) heel that complimented the dress and robes and were appropriate for a day time event.  The day was truly wonderful and despite the lack of outrageously gorgeous or imposing footwear, I felt on a complete high with regard to confidence, elegance and poise for the entire day.  Perfect!

Fear not, dear reader, for I did find an excuse to wear the gorgeous, attitudinous patent leather heels on the very next Monday.  I wore them to work, which is something I don’t do often any more.  I have tended towards dressing more conservatively at work since I have become more secure and settled in my sense of identity and therefore don’t need to push it so obviously in all spheres of my life.  However, completely separate from the loveliness of graduating, I have recently had cause to re-evaluate the niche I occupy in my environment including a great amount of seriously self critical reflection (I mean more than usually …), some humiliation and a great deal of feeling vulnerable.  On Monday morning I needed to get up, inhabit my brave face (note, not wear my brave face – I aim to do it properly and fill the role of brave face not just perch it on my shoulders) and wear something affirming my identity and femininity.  The heels as part of an urban feel, denim skirt, bold check shirt and coloured tights outfit gave me a lift on that day.  Co-opting the image of a confident woman dressing exactly how she wanted to gave me a much needed boost for a day that was somewhat more about diversion and bluffing than my graduation day had been.



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